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What does the return to in-person learning look like for Hamburg Central Schools?

Elementary students to be in-person on April 26
State of Education generic
Posted at 11:26 AM, Apr 15, 2021

HAMBURG, N.Y. (WKBW) — Schools around Western New York are looking to bring students back for in-person learning five days a week.

School districts like the Salamanca City School district announced in the first week of April they would have all students back in school buildings effective Monday, April 12.

Others, like Niagara Falls, Lewiston-Porter and Hamburg Central Schools all plan to resume in-person learning in a couple of weeks.

Breaking down the plan for Hamburg Central Schools

Hamburg CSD Superintendent Michael Cornell

Hamburg Central Schools Superintendent Michael Cornell told 7 Eyewitness News' Ed Drantch in an interview Thursday morning that planning for this next phase started early.

"We started [in] late February or early March by bringing in our three large stakeholder groups," Cornell said, adding, "It was clear to us at that point that there would be some change to the state's guidance."

He said over the next few weeks, the district continued working with the community to create a plan to safely bring all students in the district's four elementary schools back by the end of the month.

"By the time we got to the end of March, I sent a notice out to the school community saying that in some way, we're going to return to fully-in-person instruction on April 26," said Cornell. "It will just depend on what the guidance allows us to do."

That notification went out before students went on spring break and Cornell said they then tailored the plan to make sure students in elementary schools would all be ready.

"We'll be ready to roll, and we're excited to welcome our youngest learners back on that day," he said.

"In-person learning is safe."

When asked about why districts like Hamburg were prepared to resume fully-in-person instruction, where some other districts say they are not ready to bring all students back, Cornell explained that there was more than just a month's worth of planning and revising the plans to ensure student safety that was factored into the decision.

"Here's the other reality, Ed: in-person learning is safe," he said. "The transmission rate in schools is extremely low and the science is clear that you are just as safe at three feet as you are at six feet. The Massachusetts study bore that out and the experience all across the country bears that out."

Cornell added, "The CDC and the New York State Department of Health have chosen an especially conservative approach, which is why we are really comfortable with three feet and a mask at the elementary level."

He said that superintendents and school boards all across Western New York are "laser-focused" on making sure they plan the right approach for the students and families in their districts. And he asked that parents everywhere be patient through the process.

"They [parents] can take comfort in the fact that their superintendents, their boards, their administrative teams, and their teachers are working like crazy to make it happen," Cornell said.